WESTERLY — When Westerly High's football team has good field position early in a possession, coach Stanley Dunbar is a big fan of putting the ball in the air.
He calls it "taking a shot." And most of the time, when it's successful, it's been quarterback Lance Williams delivering the ball to wide receiver Luke Marley.
Here's why Dunbar is such a fan of the approach: "I think they both have the skill set for it," he said. "Lance has a really good touch on his deep passes, and I think Luke, down the field, has really good ball skills. He can locate the ball really well. That is something that makes our offense that much more dynamic."
Westerly took one of those shots on the very first play of Friday's Division II game with West Warwick. The result was a 62-yard touchdown pass with just 12 seconds elapsed that sparked the Bulldogs to an overwhelming 55-7 Senior Night win against the Wizards at Augeri Field.
Williams, a junior, finished 10-of-17 passing for 154 yards. He has thrown for 965 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, completing 57.1% of his attempts with just three interceptions.
"When we take those shots, it turns into more momentum," Williams said. "I knew my guy [Marley] was better. He's an athlete and a very good athlete."
Marley was defended on the play, but he went high to make the catch and sailed the remaining 25 yards into the end zone for his seventh TD reception of the year. The ball just cleared the defensive back.
Marley has 23 receptions for 521 yards, averaging 22.7 per catch. Five of his TD receptions have been 42 yards or better.
"It was just great placement by my boy Lance Williams," said Marely, a senior. "I went up and got the ball and somehow I fell back on my feet. Lance is really patient and he knows where to throw it."
Dunbar said he saw things on film preparing for the game that made him think the early play would work.
"I know backside that they like to play a lot of [man-to-man] coverage. I knew what they were going to be in and we just took advantage of it," Dunbar said. "I didn't think they had a guy that could defend Luke one on one."
Westerly scored the next three times it had the ball.
Williams scored on a option run from 4 yards out on Westerly's next possession. The drive covered 38 yards and took three plays.
Zack Tuck went in from 9 yards out, capping a 14-yard two-play drive that resulted from excellent field position after a 17-yard punt return by Drew Mason. Tuck's score made it 21-0 with 5:50 left in the first quarter. Westerly scored on three of its first six plays.
The Bulldogs drove 61 yards on their next drive, with Williams covering the final 15 yards untouched on an option play to make it 28-7 with 2:05 left in the first quarter.
Williams completed a 12-yard pass to Marley on fourth down to keep the drive going.
Tuck, who finished with 174 yards on 13 carries, pushed the lead to 35-7 with a 62-yard scoring run down the West Warwick sideline with 4:04 left in the first half.
Westerly scored on its final possession of the first half, moving 71 yards in 1:52. Williams completed 6 of 8 passes during the march.
He found Mason open in the right side of the end zone on the final play of the first half from 12 yards out. Kicker Chad Mayne's sixth extra point of the half gave the Bulldogs a 42-7 lead.
West Warwick's lone score in the half came on 97-yard kickoff return by Richard Medeiros.
"We wanted to send these kids (the seniors) off right. We wanted to see them go out with a bang, and I think we did that," Williams said.
The second half was played with running time. Mason scored on a 3-yard run in the third quarter. Joe Gervasini had a 1-yard TD run that was set up by a 44-yard interception return by John Sullivan in the fourth quarter. The return fell 1 yard short of the goal line.
West Warwick (2-6, 2-6 Division II-B) had just one first down in the game and never crossed midfield.
Westerly (6-2, 5-2 II-B) will travel to Barrington next week for the Division II quarterfinals. The Bulldogs beat the Eagles, 28-0, on Oct. 22.
"I think we are peaking at the right time," Dunbar said. "That win against Barrington gave us a lot of confidence, and we think we can compete with anybody."